Fargo Review: “A Muddy Road” (Season 1, Episode 3)

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Last week I wondered how the Colin Hanks Gus Grimly story would factor into the things going on in Bemidji, and now we know. It seems he’s trying to atone for his sins this week, looking into the man he let drive away who proceeded to leave a trail of corruption in his wake. While Malvo’s threats still hang over him, he manages to strike up enough courage to admit his wrongs, humiliate himself to his boss, and drive to Bemidji to make things right. His honesty is rather refreshing, and stands out amongst the cast of liars that populate Fargo. 

He’s discovered that Malvo was driving a stolen car, Lester’s car, and makes his way from Duluth to Bemidji to tell the police there that he let their suspect go. He and Molly immediately strike up a bit of chemistry and mutual understanding, and I’m really looking forward to how their story plays out. Things aren’t looking good for Lester though, now that Molly has found out that he lied about his car being in the shop. Molly may have been beraded several times by the dim-witted and clueless Deputy Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk), but this is irrefutable proof that something fishy is going on.

On the Malvo front, he’s making waves of his own in Duluth. He finds out that fitness trainer Don Chump (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton) is behind the blackmail of Supermarket King Milos Stavro, and isn’t very good at it. He doesn’t even know what he’s blackmailing him for, and is only asking for the money to buy a Turkish bath.

Malvo steps in, takes over the scheme, and begins inflicting his own damage. He kills Stavro’s dog, then replaces the man’s acetaminophen pills with Adderall. The episode ends with a shocking image of Stavro in the shower, which quickly begins to run with blood.

Needless to say, the pieces are all finally coming into play, and moving quickly. Things are really beginning to heat up, now that Molly and Gus are hot on Lester’s tail, while he himself is being pursued by Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers. Meanwhile, Malvo is running the blackmail scheme while also working for the man he’s blackmailing, and before long the homicides in Bemidji will begin to catch up with him. Aw jeez.

A major theme this week was choice, and how copping up to those choices can affect your fate. Lester is continuing to dig himself into an even deeper hole, and before long these weak foundations he’s build up around his deception will come crashing down on top of him.

Molly, on the other hand, comes clean about her additional attempts to question Lester, and gets yelled at for it. Then, Gus decides to come clean about his bad choices and makes the right choices instead. From a storytelling standpoint, it’s easy to have your characters lie, because it creates more dramatic tension and adds more intrigue and suspense to what comes next. It’s much harder to have your characters be honest, because that choice can either move them on to the next stage, or stop them dead in their tracks.

Often, choices come down to the easy thing or the hard thing. Here, we’re seeing some characters who take the easy way out, and others who put their necks on the line in order to make the hard, and ultimately right, choices. How those choices will affect the other elements at play, remain to be seen.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Lots of great comedy this week, which was balanced more evenly with the dramatic moments than last week’s episode.
  • Am I the only one fearing for the lives of Molly and Gus? They can’t be this close this early on the series, can they?
  • Is Molly’s father, Lou, Marge Gunderson’s partner in FargoHe was a former cop, and knows how ugly humanity can be, while dropping hints about a case in Sioux Falls. Is that a direct reference to the events of the film? God, I hope so.
  • Mr. Wrench looks absolutely terrifying when angrily doing sign-language to a confused, and nervous, Lester. Really effective directing there, taking what could have been a comedy schtick and giving it dramatic weight.